Nov 28, 2008

Shotgun Weddings

Continuing along in my "Dummies" series, I'm currently reading "Catholicism for Dummies." There's a lot that I love about Catholicism and a lot that makes me glad that I'm not Catholic. This book has helped clear up some of the misconceptions I had about Catholicism, whether it's the issues of celibacy or marriage annulments, and it's also helped me appreciate a lot about the faith.

In the chapter about Catholic marriage, it says:

{In most dioceses, Catholics who want to marry are asked to meet with a priest or a deacon at least 9 to 12 months before the wedding. This period is called Pre-Cana after the name of the town, Cana, where Jesus and his mother, Mary, went to a wedding feast, and Jesus changed water into wine. During the Pre-Cana period, the priest offers practical financial and emotional advice to the couple, as well as instructions on the spiritual nature of marriage and Natural Family Planning (NFP), which, by the way, is not the old, forsaken Rhythm Method. Because the Catholic Church forbids all artificial contraception, regulating birth and planning the size of a family must be based on morally allowable means, such as NFP.

Why is so much time spent in preparation? Why can't weddings be spontaneous? Because the Sacrament of Matrimony is a vocation for life. The Catholic Church wants to prevent impulsive, shotgun weddings, or anything done in haste, rashness, or imprudence.}

If there's any religious group of people who knows "spontaneous" weddings, it's Mormons. I've known Mormons who met someone at BYU, got married, and had two kids in the same amount of time it took me to decide whether or not to get married. How many really wait 9-12 months? Some may not even wait 3 months. We all got a laugh out of the impulsive engagements and weddings in "The Singles Ward," but it's perhaps not all that far off from reality. We've all seen it, haven't we? I'm the result of a pretty spontaneous international engagement myself, even though my dad wasn't Mormon at the time of their marriage, and they beat the odds by staying together. It's surprising, actually, just how many do beat the odds, but I've seen quite a few who didn't. I've seen those who feel pressured into getting married ASAP and having as many kids as possible ASAP and they sometimes end up miserable and divorced with several kids. It's not nice.

OK, so most of us would probably not want to discuss the details of "family planning" with our bishop. I know I wouldn't. But is there not anything we can learn from our Catholic neighbours? I know that the bishop and stake president probably give young couples a "talk" when they have their recommend interviews, but should it be more? The Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony is for life and therefore they think it's wise to not rush things and give the couple plenty of counsel. Mormon temple marriage is for eternity.

So why the rush?


KimLairson said...

I am an L.D.S. convert. I married someone I spent 21 days with in the year we courted. He was in the U.S.M.C. Our courtship was mostly letters. WE divorced after having five children.I definitely wish we had gotten to know each other better before we got hitched.Maybe things would have turned out differently.

Bored in Vernal said...

Well, the rush is because many of us might not have even made it to the temple if we had to wait longer than 3 months. If there was a way to get over that hurdle, I'd say waiting would make good sense.

Lula O said...

I think these kind of "talks" should be asked for, not given automatically. They can give us council and advice, but we make the final decision that ultimately WE must live with for the rest of our lives.

Personally, I don't like people telling me what to do, so how does a Bishop tread these waters and not offend a person like me? He probably can't. Unless I ask for help, it's none of his business, in my humble opinion.

Papa D said...

My marriage was the result of a very early decision, a two-year courtship and two-year engagement, an extended absence for nearly all of that engagement and a very quick wedding after that absence. In some ways it was the quintessential Mormon marriage, while in others it was the taboo chaste Mormon relationship. A lot of how it is viewed by others depends entirely on their own conceptions of the ideal.

You see:

I met my future wife 26 years ago - when I was 16 and she was 15. I knew within two weeks that I would marry her. Once she turned 16, I never dated anyone else. I proposed to her a couple of months prior to leaving on my mission, right before the start of her senior year in high school - when she was 17 and I was 18. She wore an engagement ring her entire senior year.

She waited for me while I served my mission, attending BYU for 1 1/2 years during that time, then we were married 1 1/2 months after I returned. After we were married for 7 months, we moved cross-country for me to start college as a married freshman - at a college where they had no idea what to do with a 22-year-old married freshman. I graduated six years later, with three children - the only married undergraduate in the entire college with chidren (except one grandfather who had left school to fight in Korea and was finishing his interrupted education).

I wouldn't recommend our path to 99.9% of the teenagers in the Church, but it worked perfectly for us - even though it freaked out most of our friends. I think we have such a deeply planted sense of personal agency, especially for the most important decisions, that it would be very hard to dictate a wait and education program like Catholicism - even though I think the overall concept is wonderful. Perhaps a 4-6 week recommended class would fly, and I would support that whole-heartedly - but I don't think it would work to try to make it mandatory. (Just make the "recommendation" a strongly emphasized one. *grin*)

Lisa said...


You've inspired me to write my own entry!

Hope you don't mind.

My husband and I met in July 2001, were unofficially engaged in September, officially in October, and married by the following March.

Though things worked out as well as they could, better in some ways, we both wish we would've married that December.

Like Papa D, I would never recommend what we did to 99.99% of the Church population. It is absolutely one of those stereotypical LDS moments - But we *knew* and it wasn't just knowing, it was having some insane connection, an inherent, unquestionable committment that hasn't gone away in the slightest. We'll have been married seven years this coming March.

Anyway, you can go read my entry if you want (after I finish it! haha). Thanks for the inspiration, FD :)

Mormon Heretic said...

Nice photo of the shotgun-toting bride! Where did you get that?

I think marriage counseling is a wonderful idea. Many denominations have offered counseling, and the statistics are quite positive in support of counseling before marriage. I think this is something to be embraced by the LDS church.

My brother and his wife dated 4 years (including 3 break ups), so he definitely knew what he was getting into. I dated my wife for 15 months (3 month engagement). I have a brother and 2 sisters who dated about 3-6 months before their wedding.

All have worked out (knock on wood.) So, I know there are many formulas for success. All of us in my family have been married in the temple, and I think that really helps with the success rate. All of us put a premium on finding someone with similar church activity and values. Of course, living in Utah helped us find those sort of people much easier.

We have a couple of dear friends who have husbands who are not LDS. I can't think of 2 finer men. They treat their wives like princesses, and I should learn from their good examples. If all of us would do that, the world would be a much better place.

I do remember talking to our bishop prior to our wedding. He didn't talk about birth control at all, other than to say it was completely up to us and the Lord. I thought he offered some excellent advice. I think it would have been a wonderful idea to meet with him more often, than that one pre-marital session.

Count me in as a proponent of pre-marital counseling. I think there are far too many people in and outside of the church who either get married too quickly, or don't get to know the person well enough before getting hitched.

I do wonder why some outside the church have such long engagements. Many live together, yet have a year or longer engagement, and end up spending multiple tens of thousands of dollars on the wedding. Mormons keep it short and inexpensive, generally. (A friend of mine joked it's because our hormones are raging, and we can't indulge until the wedding night, unlike others who live together prior, so I think BiV has a very valid point.)

Of course, there are plenty of statistics which say people who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate. These are prime people who probably need some sort of pre-marital counseling prior to marriage. This includes many Catholics. It seems to me that certain Catholic priests won't perform a wedding if they know a couple is a little "too friendly" before the wedding. I remember filming a Catholic wedding that was performed by a Deacon, instead of a Priest for this very reason.

The Faithful Dissident said...

MH, I googled "shotgun wedding" and the picture of that bride came up. Not often I get them so perfect on the first try. :)

I personally think that some sort of pre-marriage counselling should be mandatory for any couples who are going to marry in the temple, but I don't think that it necessarily has to be as long or as in-depth as the Catholic Pre-Cana. Perhaps a series of lessons over a course of 6 weeks, like the ones we get before getting our endowments, but geared towards marriage specifically.

I try not to be too critical of "Mormon shotgun weddings" because some of them really turn out to be right. I'd feel like a hypocrite saying that they can never work because I know that they can. When my mom met my dad, she spoke no English and he spoke only a few words of Spanish with the help of a book. She was 18 or 19 and he was 4 years older. They "dated" for 9 days and my dad (whose father once asked him if he was gay because he had never had time or interest for dating) says he knew she was the one. Apparently the book taught him enough Spanish to say something like, "I think you would make a perfect wife for me" and I guess his accent was good enough that my mom understood and so they were engaged. The funny part is that if you knew my dad, you'd see that a quickie engagement was TOTALLY crazy for a man of his personality: type A, very careful, never makes rash decisions, tends to be a pessimist. And yet with the biggest decision of his life, he apparently had no second thoughts. I think he prayed about it, but he wasn't a Mormon at the time. My mom, who was already Mormon, said that she made the decision quite easily (even though she had a handsome American RM after her at the same time) but that's more typical of her personality. They were sealed a year after getting married and they've now been married 32 years.

MH, I think you're right about the long engagements among couples who live together. Since virtually all couples in Norway live common-law for some time before getting married, I've known people who seem to be apparently permanently engaged. My husband's brother lived together with a woman for about 5 years and then we were shocked when they finally got engaged, even MORE shocked when they had a baby, and even WAY more shocked than that when they finally actually DID get married. I think they had been engaged for about 3 years before they finally took "the plunge" (as if buying a house and having a kid together wasn't already "taking the plunge." :) They've been married for a year now and seem to be happy. But I have seen couples who live together for years and have kids together. Once they finally get married, then they split up. I really don't get it, but all I can think of is that they probably have unrealistic expectations of what marriage is all about and what they want from each other once they're "legal." It would be interesting to know, though, what exactly it is that makes them divorce.

I often think of what Dr. Phil says: "You shouldn't get married until you've seen each other with the flu." Some Mormons perhaps don't even wait long enough from being smitten until the symptoms set in. :D

Lisa, I'm looking forward to reading your post. Glad to be of "inspirational help." :)

Lisa said...

ahahah! FD! My husband had the same thing happen.

Everyone said Eric wouldn't get married too quickly. Like you said, Type A, careful, not too rash - hell, he'd only dated one other girl before me.

Nobody expected this from him. His grandparents nearly had a coronary just from the news. "Eric? Get married? But but but"



And though I'd "known" Eric since July, it was a week exactly between our official first date and the day we first talked marriage.

Sometimes it works - to suggest it as the thing to do...ehhhhh...

The Faithful Dissident said...

I always knew that I wouldn't rush into marriage and that I would take a long time deciding, which I did, but I also said that if I married a foreigner, he was going to have to come to Canada because I was NEVER leaving Canada! :) But I do remember saying back in high school -- before I met my husband -- that if I ever had to move, I could perhaps feel at home in Scandinavia. And my mother-in-law tells me that when my husband was a kid, he said that he was taking off to Canada when he grew up. :)

E said...

Just to play devil's advocate, even with our often short engagements, LDS temple marriages are less likely to end in divorce than than other marriages, including Catholic ones. Maybe the odds of success could be further improved if some sort of counseling was required as well. I'll just point out also, as some of you already have, that very long engagements and often (usually?) cohabitation are the norm outside of the church, yet divorce rates are very high.

The Faithful Dissident said...

E, I wonder if the lower divorce rate signifies that LDS couples are happier, though. I have no statistics, so it's hard for me to say. It's just been an observation -- through those whom I know personally -- that some of these couples who remain married are miserable and they just stay in order to "endure to the end" or because of the kids. Sometimes I think it may be because not only did they rush into getting married, but they rushed into having kids.

Katie said...

I am a string proponent of pre-marriage. I was raised Catholic and am an LDS convert. My (Catholic) sis and I got married about a month apart from each other in 2004. Sis married a her high-school sweetheart whom she had dated off and on for 7 years (and lived with for about 1 year). They did pre-Cana, which in my mind was totally worthless for them b/c they were good friends with the priest and therefore got away with not answering some really vital questions that are supposed to be covered (specifically, How many children would you like to have, and when? Where do you want to live/settle down? DO you want to settle down?) Another thing I thought was a little ridiculous was, How the heck can a priest really answer your marital questions, having never been married himself and being celibate?Sis and BIL had some issues after they first got married, and I was worried about them for some time, concerned that they might get a divorce, but they seem to have worked out the kinks on there own, so that is great. One of the biggest things that worried me was that Sis was kinda apprehensive about the whole marriage thing (hence the 7 year courtship), and only really committed once they started living together. To use her words, she didn't want to continue "living in sin."

Hubby and I met in June, 2003 and married May 2004, so almost a year later. My dad about died when we announced our engagement. We are both of us very Type A, scientists, have to study everything out, etc., so I'm not at all surprised by our parents' response at our hasty marriage. I think they would have anticipated we would have been more like Sis. Unlike Sis, though, Hubby and I were quite a bit older than they were when we got married (25), and we had already dated several other people, etc.

Hubby and I were long-distance for the vast majority of our engagement (he was finishing up his last year at BYU and I was a PhD student in Philadelphia). Throughout that time, we did a sort of self-study "pre-marriage counseling". Hubby was taking a Marriage Prep class at BYU and we both got the books and did the lessons, assignments, etc., together. We also read/discussed over the phone a lot of different relationship books (Finding the Love of your Life, Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, and The Act of Marriage, among others), and took a online marriage assessment called the "RELATE" test. Anyway, in contrast with Sis, our marriage has never really been rocky - although our engagement period was at times.

I think that the main benefit of pre-marriage counseling is not to help you decide if this is the person you should marry (which is what pre-Cana is all about,and which I think it fails miserably at), but rather to help you transition into marriage a little easier. I don't think any amount of classwork is really going to get someone to change their mind about marrying someone they are in love with.

And, responding to the comment that LDS couples are married "for eternity," for the record most Catholics think they are too :-)

Katie said...

Sorry, I typed too fast. My first sentence there was supposed to be "I am a strong proponent of pre-marriage counseling."

The Faithful Dissident said...

Katie, thanks for your comments and especially for sharing more details about what Pre-Cana is all about. Sounds like there are some pretty in-depth questions -- questions that would have embarrassed me or I would have found impossible to answer. But I'm sure that plenty of Mormons have experience with embarrassing questions from their bishops and stake presidents. :)

Katie said...

Oh, yeah, pre-Cana is supposed to be pretty in-depth. I think of it as similar to the Courtship and Marriage Sunday School class, except that it is one-on-one with your instructor/priest. Committing to having children is a HUGE part of it, since Catholics believe the whole purpose of marriage/marital intimacy is to precreate. Actually, one of the few instances where a marriage can be annulled in the Catholic church is when one of the spouses doesn't want children.

RAP08 said...

I think the best pre-marriage counseling I was given was the idea that marriage is not something where we have to meet half way all the time, but that we need to be willing to give 60,70 and at times 80%. I found that I struggled the most in my marriage when I was being selfish and thinking my wife was not doing her share. Of course that advise was given by the sealer at the temple, I guess it may have been taught at other times but that was when I heard it and started to internalize it.

We have now been married for over 13 years and have overcome a lot of the challenges that face young families. Three children to our credit and we even seem to have weathered a house remodel, which I think can be really hard if you have strong and differing opinions. We dated for 3 months and then were engaged for 3 more, of course my wife made me wait 21 days before saying “yes”, talk about torture!! We are both return missionaries, I for over a year and she had just come home. I think that helped as we were older, 23, and probably fairly mature.

For me a short engagement was not that out of the usual. I was the first of my sibling to marry and my parents had a short, long distance engagement. I also think once you have the answer what is the point of waiting, of course that is not the way the world works in general.

I think we were fairly smart in waiting to have children for 5 years they definitely add a new dimension to the marriage dynamic. In that time we were both able to finish school and get a stable financial footing before adding to the mix. I would agree with those that say each circumstance is different and that our path is not for everyone.

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Anonymous said...

Too funny. I found your blog through your comment on the post about baptizing the dead on Mormon Matters. Your comment said something similar to mine, so I came over here to check out your blog.

I laughed reading this post b/c right now I'm reading Mormonism for Dummies (I'm Catholic)!